Anna van der Breggen made it a remarkable six consecutive wins at La Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday. The newly crowned world champion led from the bottom of the climb of the Mur de Huy and held off a strong challenge from Dutch compatriot Demi Vollering (Parkhotel-Valkenburg).
Vollering attacked just after the famous bend on the steepest section of the climb, but could not gap Van der Breggen. Danish rider Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope) also tried but was unable to respond when the world champion opened her sprint, eventually finishing second, with Vollering third.
Top Brit was Lizzie Deignan (Trek-Segafredo) who began the climb in around seventh position, but moved up to finish fourth on the day, 11 seconds down.
Van der Breggen will get the next opportunity to prove her mastery at Liège-Bastogne-Liège this weekend, another race at which she has multiple wins after victories at the event’s two inaugural editions in 2017 and ’18.
How it happened
The 124km race, starting and finishing in the Belgian town of Huy has been a constant feature on the top tier of women’s racing since 1998. Throughout those years two women have dominated, with both Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv) and newly crowned world champion Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) both on five wins each, the latter looking for a sixth consecutive success.
Nearly as soon as the flag dropped three women attacked the race, and by the time 30km was done Kirstie van Haaften (Ciclotel), Mireia Benito (Massi-Tactic) and Marieke van Witzenburg (Doltcini-van Eyck) had a lead of 1-40.
As they reached the first of seven classified climbs, the Côte de Warre, 12km later Van Witzenburg was briefly dropped by the leaders. This brought a change in the race as, by the time she was back on the gap was down to 25 seconds and it was Van Haaften who was caught, while the other two once again extended their gap.
That did not last for long though, and when the peloton tackled the Côte d’Ereffe for the first of two ascents they were back in the bunch, with Boels-Dolmans setting the pace.
Here, with torrential raining falling the race split, a small group of seven women gaining a small gap as the race closed in on the first climb of the famed Mud de Huy.
Floortje Mackaij (Sunweb), Elise Chabbey (Equipe Paule Ka), Audrey Cordon-Ragot (Trek-Segafredo), Anouska Koster (Parkhotel-Valkenburg), former British champion Hannah Barnes (Canyon-SRAM) and the Boels-Dolmans pair of Amy Pieters and Chantal Blaak, began the climb leading by around 30 seconds.
However, as they ground their way upwards CCC-Liv’s Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio bridged from the bunch, and around 35 women emerged onto a windswept flat section, leading the race with around 30km remaining.
Here many of the bigger teams had numbers, but it was Trek-Segafredo who took to the front driving the pace working for both Lizzie Deignan and Elisa Longo Borghini, with French champion Audrey Cordon-Ragot putting in a huge turn.
As the race entered the closing 15km US champion Ruth Winder took to the front, with Deignan on her wheel. However, as they hit the bottom of the penultimate climb, the Côte du Chemin des Guesses, Boels-Dolmans came to the front with former world champion Chantal van den Broek-Blaak setting a hard pace and splitting the already small bunch.
With nine kilometres to go only 21 women were at the front, Boels-Dolmans continuing on the front while favourites like Vos, Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon-SRAM) and Deignan remained attentive, Van der Breggen glued to the Briton’s wheel.
On the flat section alongside the Meuse river, into Huy and the final ascent Boels-Dolmans continued to keep the pace high onto the climb, with both Amy Pieters and Van den Brock-Blaak dropping off as their leader came to the front.
La Flèche Wallonne Femmes 2020: Huy to Huy (124km)
1. Anna van der Breggen (Ned) Boels-Dolmans, in 3-17-28
2. Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig (Den) FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope, at 2 sec
3. Demi Vollering (Ned) Parkhotel-Valkenburg, at 6 sec
4. Lizzie Deignan (Gbr) Trek-Segafredo, at 11 sec
5. Elisa Longo Borghini (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
6. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio-Pasio (RSA) CCC-Liv
7. Mikayla Harvey (NZ) Equipe Paule Ka, all at same time
8. Liane Lippert (Ger) Sunweb, at 18 sec
9. Marianne Vos (Ned) CCC-Liv, at 22 sec
10. Kasia Niewiadoma (Pol) Canyon-SRAM, at 25 sec